Friday, November 08, 2019

A Reasonable Revision to the Lifeline Postponement Request

Back in June 2019, I posted a blog, "A Reasonable Lifeline Postponement Request," supporting a petition filed by CTIA and some public interest organizations asking the FCC to postpone an impending FCC deadline that, if implemented, may have adversely impacted Lifeline customers by constraining the flexibility of service providers to tailor offerings in an affordable way to meet Lifeline customers' demands. 

Specifically, the petition asks the Commission to stay implementation of the December 1, 2019 (1) increase in the minimum required broadband data usage allowance from 2 GB to 8.75 GB, and (2) the phase-down in support for voice services in the Lifeline program. The petition asks for the postponement until the Commission can consider the Wireline Competition Bureau’s State of the Lifeline Marketplace Report, due to be completed by June 30, 20121.

Now, TracFone, a major provider of Lifeline services, has proposed that the Commission increase the minimum service standard for mobile wireless data to 3 GB per month until the Commission has an opportunity to evaluate the appropriate level of the minimum service standard in the State of the Lifeline Marketplace Report, which it suggests the FCC place on an accelerated timeline for completion.

On November 5, CTIA filed an ex parte letter with the Commission endorsing TracFone's compromise proposal as "a rational means for the Commission to continue to increase the minimum service standards while taking care to avoid unintended consequences for millions of Lifeline eligible low-income consumers."

I agree. The FCC is right to continue its focus on ensuring that the Lifeline program is run as efficiently as possible and as free from abuse and waste as possible. At the same time, the program serves as a "safety net" for low income consumers, and the Commission should take care that any proposed changes in minimum service standards don't reduce the effectiveness of the program for its intended beneficiaries.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

FCC Releases T-Mobile/Sprint Order

On November 5, the FCC released its order approving the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. The result is consistent with comments and reply comments filed by the Free State Foundation in the proceeding. Also, on October 8, FSF President Randolph May and I filed comments pursuant to the Tunney Act regarding the U.S. Department of Justice's proposed settlement with T-Mobile and Sprint.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Case for Federal Preemption of California's Misguided Privacy Law

On October 28, the Free State Foundation published "California's Heavy-Handed Approach to Protecting Consumer Privacy: Exhibit A in the Case for Federal Preemption," a Perspectives from FSF Scholars paper by Adjunct Senior Fellow Andrew Long. His paper examines many troublesome aspects of that state's broad and onerous privacy law. And it emphasizes the importance of Congress passing a preemptive new data privacy law as well as the Federal Trade Commission taking action to secure a consistent federal standard for data privacy protection that is based on sound principles and provides for flexibile case-by-case enforcement. 

Mr. Long's Perspectives paper is worth a close reading. Its publication comes close on the heels of the release of the edited transcript of FSF's Seminar "Privacy Regulation: Why, What and When?"

Friday, November 01, 2019

Save the Date! FSF's Twelfth Annual Telecom Policy Conference

The Free State Foundation will hold its Twelfth Annual Telecom Policy Conference on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, 8:30 AM to 2:45 PM at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. This annual conference is widely acknowledged to be one of the nation's premier communications law and policy events.

As always, a truly outstanding lineup of senior officials and prominent experts from Congress, the FCC, other government agencies, industry, academia, and think tanks will discuss and debate the most important communications and Internet policy issues of the day.

Mark your calendars now for March 10, 2020!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

FCC Proposes Undoing More of its Unbundling Regulation

At its November 19 public meeting, the FCC is scheduled to vote on a proposed rulemaking that would update and pare back some of its legacy "unbundling" regulation "to reflect [competitive] marketplace realities and to remove unnecessary regulatory burdens that can inhibit the deployment of, and transition to, next- generation networks." This proposal appears to constitute another step in right direction by the Commission in reducing forced-access mandates that date back to the mid-1990s and were supposed to be temporary but have the effect of dis-incentivizing investment in new facilities.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Report Highlights Mobile Wireless Advancements and the Future of 5G

For info-rich insight into the current state of the mobile wireless market as well as a glimpse at the 5G future, check out GMSA's report, "The Mobile Economy, North America 2019." The report identifies ongoing subscriber migration from 2G and 3G to 4G and, increasingly, to 5G, and the immediate economic opportunities offered by 5G fixed wireless residential broadband and 5G enterprise services. Additionally, the report charts recent and projected capital expenditures and job creation directly as well as indirectly related to wireless services. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Wireless Carriers Launch Next-Generation Text Messaging Initiative

On October 24, the four major national wireless carriers announced a new joint venture to develop a next-generation wireless text messaging system. The Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI) will be based on the Rich Communication Services (RCS) protocol. In my Perspectives from FSF Scholars paper, "The FCC Should Halt Bogus Lawsuits Threatening Popular Texting Services," I explained:
Texting services are in the process of upgrading to a next-generation technology called Rich Communication Services (RCS). This new protocol, which is being made available for cell phones with Android operating systems, allows more interactive functions, including live group chats, as well as transmission of higher-quality audio and video files. 
The launch of CCMI will help accelerate the adoption of RCS and provide consumers more advanced texting functions. The market for texting and messaging services generally is innovative and competitive. RCS text messaging services ought to receive the same unregulated treatment under Title I of the Communications Act that SMS and MMS texting services receive pursuant to the FCC's Wireless Messaging Services Order (2018). (That order states: "To the extent that successor protocols share the characteristics of SMS and MMS that we find controlling here, we expect they would be similarly classified under the Act.")